The USDA's Rural Development's Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program will add $23.4 million in additional funding for 75 new projects in 31 states. These grants are used to purchase telemedicine educational tools, equipment and services in rural areas because those areas often lack access to specialized medical care or advanced educational opportunities. The additional funds will help address the ever-increasing need to expand telehealth capabilities in rural areas. Funding care in rural Arkansas is one major focus of the USDA program.
Baptist Health in Little Rock has received 2 USDA grants to establish a critical care network, thus creating an interoperable system between 6 medical centers that allows specialists to make rounds virtually. This year, the North Slope Borough region in Alaska plans to use grants totaling $420,000, to link 6 Native Alaskan clinics, 4 end-user sites and the Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital to increase emergency care, examinations and behavioral health and specialized services.
The Baptist Healthcare System in Corbin, Kentucky will use their $182,566 grant for installation of teleconferencing and telehealth equipment throughout their five facilities in rural Kentucky and eastern Tennessee. The USDA has provided more than $213 million in grants and loans for 634 distance learning and telemedicine projects in rural areas nationwide since 2009, which have increased access to care for patients in rural healthcare provider systems.
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